Glancing up while sitting in the departure lounge of Grantley Adams Airport in Barbados my heart sank - oh crap! – joining me and a few other passengers in the waiting area was the Australian Cricket team. Nothing personal, all good guys. Some passengers, who were clearly supporters, reacted with muted excitement. But it became painfully obvious to me, the team was joining us on our flight leaving shortly for St Vincent. I smiled an evil grin at the ignorant supporters in the lounge for they were unaware of the fact that the team’s presence on our plane meant only one thing and it wasn’t good… but I will come back to that.
I have been covering cricket in the West Indies for about 15 years now and consider myself a veteran of many a tour through the islands. When I tell friends and colleagues that I am off to the Caribbean for cricket, I am constantly met comments of the, ”wow nice!!” or “man another tough assignment in paradise”, kind. I admit, it sounds pretty good to me too, but I know better… I have been there, got the T-shirt and worn it out.
Most people when they travel down to the Windies for a holiday fly on a major airline, unpack, sit in the sun, drink too much, burn their skin the colour of a ripe tomato, pack their bags, get back on that big jet and go home… no fuss no muss. I and my photo colleagues also board that big jet but remain behind to move from island to island for the next four to eight weeks… well read on…
Now, before I give the impression I am about to regale you with nothing but tales of woe, let me say that covering cricket in the Windies is usually a lot of fun. But I am biased as I love the sport and love covering it. West Indians love their cricket so much that some of the islands often declare a national holiday to allow fans to attend a One-Day International.
The atmosphere can be a carnival-like with loud Caribbean music between overs, especially the catchy favourites like the cricket tune “Rally Round the West Indies” and the various Bob Marley tunes. The fans are emotional and not shy about shouting advice at the West Indies side encouraging them to “lash” the ball and erupting with joy as a well hit shot drives to the boundary or howls of mocking laughter if the opposing side appeals for LBW or their batsman ducks a bouncer.